The outpatient assessment of patients with anemia by a general internal medicine service

H. McFadgen, S. Couban, S. Doucette, A. Kreuger-Naug, S. Shivakumar


At the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2,400-2,800 new outpatient referrals for hematology consultation are received annually and approximately 10% of these referrals are specifically for isolated anemia. In recent years, such referrals have been sent from hematology to general internal medicine (GIM) for assessment and management. A retrospective chart review was conducted of a cohort of 99 patients from 2013 to describe the demographics, assessment, management and outcome of these patients, as well as to inform whether this practice should continue. The median age of patients was 60.3 years (min 19.4, max 97.6) and 62% were female. The median hemoglobin level was 109.0 g/L (min 66, max 137) at the time of referral and the median wait time was 53 days (min 8 days, max 171 days). Pearson’s correlation analysis revealed that those with lower hemoglobin levels were seen more quickly. The patients had an additional 2.8 comorbidities on average, and were significantly more likely to receive non-anemia related adjustment to care with increasing number of comorbidities. A small proportion of patients (n = 5, 5.1%) were referred from GIM back to hematology, whereas 21% were referred to gastroenterology. A small number of patients (n = 5, 5.1%) underwent a bone marrow aspirate and biopsy. The most common diagnoses identified in the initial clinic letters were iron deficiency anemia (n = 59, 59.6%) and anemia of chronic disease (n = 8, 8.1%). 26.3% did not have a diagnosis identified. These findings support our practice to have patients with an isolated anemia evaluated by a general internist rather than a hematologist. Most of these patients had iron deficiency anemia or the anemia of chronic disease and received additional care for their comorbid conditions in the GIM clinic. Further work will help to define how such patients can be most effectively assessed and treated.

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Journal of Hospital Administration

ISSN 1927-6990(Print)   ISSN 1927-7008(Online)

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